Marriage in contemporary Zulu society : implications for couple counselling.
Most Western therapeutic methods are based on the Western world view and are very individualistic, and may therefore not be appropriate for social work practice with African clients. This study focused specifically on marriage counselling. It aimed to explore the meaning of marriage among Zulu couples, elders and social workers with a view to recommending guidelines for marriage therapy with Zulu clients. The research study was qualitative in nature and was guided by social construction theory. In social construction theory the social practices that people engage in to interact with each other influence the meaning that is ascribed, and how the world is viewed and understood. Thus social interaction within any culture determines how a person perceives reality, and this influences one’s world view. As a result people with different world views will have a very different of understanding. The study explored the beliefs, values, traditions and practices of marriage in contemporary Zulu society, and examined the resulting implications for marriage counselling in order to develop best practice guidelines. The study took place in two phases. In the first phase twelve couples who defined themselves as Zulu, nine Zulu family elders who had given relationship advice to their family members, and ten Zulu social workers who worked with couples and families in the community were sourced using snow ball sampling. They were interviewed in depth about their experiences, beliefs and values of being married as Zulu people. Thematic and discourse analysis generated four main themes that were of significance in Zulu marriages: belonging, respect or hlonipha, spirituality and ubuntu. Each of these themes was interlinked with each other and generated a number of sub themes. In the second phase these results were discussed with the Durban and with the Pietermaritzburg FAMSA (the Family and Marriage Society of South Africa) social workers who specialise in marriage counselling. The feedback received added to the trustworthiness of the study and also facilitated an exploration of the implications for marriage counselling. The FAMSA social workers challenged the judgemental aspects of traditional helping and stressed that the social worker needs to rather facilitate change. As social workers therefore, we need to be familiar with both traditional African world views and values, and to appreciate how these values may be used in practice. Best practice guidelines were thus developed to include these traditional Zulu values.